In an interview with the Today show's Matt Lauer, Obama explains how seven years in the White House have made him a better father.
"My ability to function as a present father, a guy who is there and engaged, was maybe stronger once I got to the White House than before, because when I was a senator, when I was commuting, the girls were still back in Chicago. When I was campaigning for president, I was gone all the time," he says. "And I don't have trouble switching off when it comes to listening to Malia and Sasha. That is actually a time when I can block everything else out."
Maintaining this balance has been one of Obama's most diligent tasks during his time in office, and has served to give him a small but necessary break from the stress of the job.
"The one time I really can leave it behind is, throughout my presidency, I've been pretty religious about dinner at 6:30 with Michelle and the girls," he says. "And when I'm sitting around the dinner table, then I'm Dad, and we spend most of our time listening to the girls talk about their days and they are not interested in mine that much."
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Obama also talks to Lauer about how being a father impacted his recent tearful address on gun control.
"I was surprised by that," he says of his display of emotion while talking last week about the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting. "I didn't expect that reopening that would trigger those kinds of emotions."
Part of it, he says, "is that we had just come back from Christmas break. I had just spent time with my daughters, one of them's about to go to college, and seeing those parents who I've gotten to know now over the course of several years and thinking about how any parent feels with that loss – it felt very personal to me."